Stats Perform team up with ENSAI and French Rugby Federation

Stats Perform has teamed up with the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and ENSAI to power a two-day Data Challenge, providing teams of aspiring data scientists with access to performance data from the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Based in Brittany, France, ENSAI is a higher education establishment in the field of statistical engineering, offering Master level diplomas to students training to become data scientists.

In addition to its own alumni, the Data Challenge, which forms part of the institution’s stats and sports event, will also involve students affiliated with the graduate school Digisport and the French Statistical Society.

The Data Challenge, which takes place from 3-4 March, will offer the students the chance to work with real game data and apply it to specific research questions, which have been set by the FFR’s research and development department.

ENSAI holds a Data Challenge for its students every year, but 2021 marks the first time that the event will focus on the application of data in sport. As well as providing performance data, Stats Perform will also deliver a presentation to the students, outlining how the company supports leading teams in professional rugby.

The event has been devised by two professors in statistics based at ENSAI, Salima El Kolei and Brigitte Gelein. El Kolei believes that it will provide an invaluable experience for students with aspirations to work as data scientists in professional sport.

El Kolei commented: “A Data Challenge is a moment of collective exuberance, a way of learning which is both fun but with a wider purpose, requiring knowledge and interpersonal skills from our students. It is a very relevant subject because projects combining sport and data are appearing more frequently and this experience can help our students find job opportunities in this sector.”

FFR’s Jérémy Cheradame, who himself is an ENSAI graduate, views the Data Challenge as an opportunity for the federation to further strengthen its ties with the academic community.

He said: “Like any organisation using data analysis to drive its performance, we need to be as close as possible to the best data science education specialists. Challenging students also means challenging ourselves and opening up our work to other perspectives, which is very stimulating.”

The Data Challenge is the latest in a long line of academic initiatives supported by Stats Perform, which includes an Introduction to Football Analytics course, delivered each year in collaboration with Birkbeck University, and the Australia Sports Tech Cup.

Stats Perform’s head of sales in Southern Europe, Antoine David, concluded: “We are delighted to provide a unique opportunity for the next generation of French data scientists to work with detailed rugby data, to hone their skills and propose new and innovative methods for analysing the game. We are looking forward to seeing their findings when they present them back to us next month.”

As well as receiving recognition from the event’s panel of judges, the winning team at the Data Challenge will also be given the opportunity to present their work during the next statistics and sports seminar, held by the French Statistical Society, on 11 March.

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